Women Of The C-Suite: “Strike the word “Just” from your work vocabulary” With Courtney Chalmers VP at Boats Group

“I would say “Take the J count, down!” I read an article by a former Google and Apple marketing executive, Ellen Petry Leanse, who…

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“I would say “Take the J count, down!” I read an article by a former Google and Apple marketing executive, Ellen Petry Leanse, who encouraged the women on her team to strike the word “just” from their work vocabulary. She viewed it as a “permission” or a way to soften the blow. I shared the idea with my team and they each said that their messages felt stronger and their convictions clearer by striking the J word from their vocabulary. Try it. I think you’ll notice the difference.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Courtney Chalmers. Courtney is the Vice President of Marketing at Boats Group, which operates the world’s largest recreational boating online marketplaces, including Boat Trader, YachtWorld, and boats.com. A creative problem solver and strategic thinker, Courtney has 15 years of experience in digital marketing and brand management. She has worked within the recreational boating industry for over a decade and has been featured in top boating publications, including Boating Industry Magazine and Soundings Trade Only and is frequently invited to speak at industry events across the U.S.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

As a kid, I always imagined how glamorous it would be to run around airports wearing a power suit and heels,carrying a briefcase. Needless to say, I found out very early on that traveling is not as glamorous as it looks — but, having a career in online media and in the recreational boating industry has made up for it!

Receiving my first ever “D” in Economics when I was in school was an abrupt reminder that my strengths lie in the creative realm. It was then I decided to change my major to Digital Media. At that time, creative digital roles were still fairly new in many organizations, which created a great opportunity for me to be able to shape a role for myself that best suited me and reflected my strengths.

I was lucky enough to be part of small, tight-knit teams when I started my career. This allowed me to wear multiple hats and get involved in a variety of areas of the business. So, even though I was hired as a graphic designer, I began to have a voice in planning campaigns and developing messaging. I had two female role models at my first job who gave me solid advice and supported my growth opportunities. 

Ultimately, though, while I was enjoying my role, I was aiming for something bigger. I had a clear vision about where I wanted to be by the time I was 30-years-old and I carved out the path to get myself there.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Now, I can look back on various situations in my career and call them what they were — mistakes. At the time, though, they felt like I was having a bad day or something just didn’t go my way. But the best part about realizing when you have made a mistake is that then you can learn from it. 

I’ve always been very driven and while that has been a trait that has gotten me to where I am today, looking back, the mistake I remember most involved thinking I was ready for a position before I actually was. At the time, I was a marketing manager and the business was recruiting for a director of marketing — a job that I was convinced I was already doing (with my less than 5 years experience, of course). Why wouldn’t I be the clear choice for such a role?! 

The GM/Vice President asked me, “Do you know why you rarely hear of a 10-year-old writing a Pulitzer Prize winning novel? Because it takes life experiences to gain wisdom.”

Looking back, I realize he was absolutely right, but it took me 10 years, a lot of trip-ups, skinned knees and even some face plants, to really understand what he meant.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Whether you’re a consumer or a dealer/broker, the core of the boating industry is all about relationships. Besides representing the most popular boating brands (Boat Trader, YachtWorld and boats.com) that people know and trust, our team members pride themselves on having strong relationships with the people who are looking for boats and with the people who are selling them. We connect more buyers and sellers than any other source in the industry and we’re the best at it because we know our consumers and our customers so well. 

I’ve been in the industry for over ten years. As a result, I have built personal relationships with many of the people with whom we do business. They have become good friends. I look forward to boat show season every year because, really, how often can you have a bunch of friends in one place at the same time surrounded by beautiful boats? The energy is contagious!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We have a lot of exciting projects in the works right now! Our mission is to leverage technology to deliver leading value to our industry partners and a world-class shopping experience to our consumers. So, many of the projects we’re working on right now are focused on delivering more personalized experiences through our marketing channels and developing tools that make it easier to shop for and sell boats.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

I would say “Take the J count, down!” I read an article by a former Google and Apple marketing executive, Ellen Petry Leanse, who encouraged the women on her team to strike the word “just” from their work vocabulary. She viewed it as a “permission” or a way to soften the blow. I shared the idea with my team and they each said that their messages felt stronger and their convictions clearer by striking the J word from their vocabulary.

Try it. I think you’ll notice the difference.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

It sounds really basic, but having regular and consistent 1:1s with your direct reports ensures that you’re up to speed on projects that are top priority, but most importantly, it’s time you’ve set aside for your team members to share what’s on their mind. These 1:1s don’t always have to be about work updates — it’s a great time for you to ask, “How are you doing? Is there anything I can do to help?”

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m a big believer in timing and that some people come into your life for a lifetime, while others come in for a scene. Throughout life, you meet people — friends, colleagues, managers, mentors — who help and support you in different ways based on what you need at that time. I’ve been lucky enough to have met many people throughout my career who have helped me grow. I would like to think that I have impacted someone else at the right time in their journey, as well.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Be resourceful. Surround yourself with smart people that you can count on (and be sure to return the favor). 
  2. Build a great personal brand. Carve out your expertise and be known for it. I figured out early on what my strengths were and the value I could bring to the boating industry. If you can identify your strengths, then navigating a career is much easier. Set goals, work to achieve them and have a plan B ready for when you hit roadblocks.
  3. Keeping up with industry news makes you a much better conversationalist. People are on-the-go, companies are being acquired, new boats are being launched — and it has served me well to know what’s happening. It’s important to know not just what is going on at your company, but what is going on with your peers, your customers, and your competition. Maybe it’s my small town roots, but I believe that keeping your ear to the ground and being in-the-know is the best way to stay on your toes.
  4. When hiring, look for candidates that have a “bunker” mentality. This is a phrase that I learned from a former team member and I related to it immediately. It’s about being willing to roll up your sleeves and get in the trenches, regardless of what the task is. If it helps the team, it’s worth doing. I made a rule for myself when I started as a marketing coordinator more than 15 years ago that I would never ask someone on my team to do something that I had not done or was not willing to do. Whether it’s data entry or ordering lunch for the group, it benefits everyone, and we all need a little help from our friends now and then. When hiring, look for someone who says they’re willing to do whatever it takes and who isn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and put in hard work. When managing, don’t lose sight of the “bunker” mentality yourself. People admire a manager who gets in the trenches with them and isn’t above doing whatever it takes.
  5. Good manners always prevail. My grandmother said, “Good manners do not cost you anything to exercise, but the lack of them may cost you dearly further down the road.” Good manners always matter.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

This question makes me think of a great quote — 

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town.
I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world. (Author unknown)

Be the best person you can be and share that person with everyone you meet. Be considerate, be helpful, be respectful — it will inspire others to do the same.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? 

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” 
Regardless if the hard times are work-related or in your personal life, you will get through the hard times and you’ll come out the other side better for it. The greatest life lessons are learned in the hardest of times and from the worst mistakes.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

We create killer content — not to mention beautiful images of yachts and boats from around the world, so our brands are the best way to see what we’re up to!


Thank you so much for these inspiring insights!

Originally published at medium.com

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